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Gatski’s ring returned

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Frank “Gunner” Gatski’s family has the late football star’s Hall of Fame ring back.

Someone stole the ring a decade ago during an unsolved burglary at the former NFL and Marshall University standout’s West Virginia home. But it turned up in an anonymous letter to Morgantown Police Chief Phil Scott earlier this month.

An accompanying note said the ring had been found and asked the police to return it to its rightful owner. Morgantown police Lt. Mike Lantz planned to do just that Thursday, when he was scheduled to meet Gatski’s daughter.

She has declined to comment.

“Especially at this time of year, I think it’s a great story,” Lantz said. “I’ve seen property returned, but nothing as rare as this.”

The ring is, indeed, rare. It’s given to those inducted into the Football Hall of Fame; so far that’s just 253 people.

Lantz says the ring is in generally decent shape, although the stone is missing and appears to have been pried loose. “I think the value for the ring would probably far outweigh the stone,” he said. “There’s not a lot of these out there.”

The ring disappeared along with some jewelry and firearms taken from Gatski’s Taylor County home while he was out at an event honoring him, said Lantz and Terring Skinner, chief Taylor County deputy sheriff.

“It’s still an open case,” Skinner said.

While Gatski might not be as famous as, say, Peyton Manning, he remains well known in West Virginia. His father died in a coal mining accident and Gatski grew into a star linebacker and center with a reputation for toughness. He never missed a game in high school, three seasons at what is now Marshall University, Auburn University and for the Cleveland Browns from 1946-56. He died in 2005.

Gatski anchored the Browns’ offensive line during a period that it dominated the NFL and played one season for the Detroit Lions.

Marshall retired Gatski’s number 72 jersey — the only Thundering Herd player to receive that honor — and Lantz had little trouble tracking down relatives.

“Of course, everybody locally’s heard of Mr. Gatski,” Lantz said.